LEE COUNTY, Fla.- It looked like a major crime scene Monday afternoon near the intersection of College Parkway and Whiskey Creek Drive. Two dozen Special Ops agents with the Lee County Sheriff's office descended on a vacant bank, dressed in full tactical gear.
But this was no robbery or hostage situation, although the experience may someday help with both.
Deputies were there for a rare opportunity to train in an environment they otherwise might not see until they are needed for the real thing.
"You can't replicate a real life situation," LCSO commander John Haberman told WINK News anchor Cayle Thompson. "So whenever we get the opportunity to get a building like this... we jump at these chances."
Special Operations, also known as SWAT in some law enforcement agencies, respond to some of the most tense and sensitive situations.
"We respond to barricaded subjects, people that hold themselves up in their homes or cars," Haberman said. "They may be threatening themselves or threatening other people."
The former Bank of America across from Edison State College closed in December of 2013. In the last few years, it had been robbed on several occasions. Neighbors in the usually quiet area remember the unsettling events.
"It's definitely de ja vu," Donnell Richardson said as he looked at the parking lot filled with sheriff's vehicles. "I remember it being robbed, and I remember seeing the guy pull out."
Richardson said he's glad to see law enforcement using the building one last time before it's demolished soon.
"I think it's excellent that they're trying to do something to make them better," he said.
WINK News cameras were not allowed inside to see how deputies train, but Commander Haberman said Special Ops members would be focusing in part on the building's design and features.
"There are some similarities in banks," Haberman said. "The offices may not be laid out the same, but a lot of the features are the same."
"God forbid something happen at a bank," Haberman continued. "We can come back to this (training) and say, 'these are the things we're going to be looking for.'"